They're a strange lot, these rapper blokes. Like his mentor Eminem before him, 50 Cent has apparently reached a point in his career where he feels a need to reinvent himself by reverting to his birth name, which in this case is Curtis Jackson. By laying bare his name, he also supposedly lays bare his soul and as a result, produces his best, and most candid material to date. Right? Well, Curtis is supposedly inspired by the rapper's life before he became his alter-ego - but if that truly is the case, that era is best left forgotten. While Jackson has proved his worth and his knowledge around a commercially-viable tune - he has sold 21 million records worldwide, after all - Curtis is a disappointingly flat third album from the New Yorker, despite the involvement of several hip-hop luminaries that he hasn't worked with previously (Mary J. Blige, Akon and Justin Timberlake, amongst others). Like most modern rap, the thematic emphasis is on materialism (how many hos you've pimped, how many people you intend on killing, how much money you have at your disposal), and this album is no different. I'll Still Kill, Peep Show, I Get Money and Fully Loaded Clip are all predictably drab, stunted affairs - both lyrically and musically - and even Blige's overblown vocal operatics on All Of Me can't rescue it from the pit of atrociousness. Curtis is redeemed almost solely by Timbaland and Timberlake's contribution on Ayo Technology, a song that's head-and-shoulders above its gangsta-smattered counterparts, and one which finally sees Jackson make an effort vocally - while the preceding trinity of Follow My Lead, Movin On Up and Amusement Park are dotted with catchy, soulful, funky licks. They're still not enough to redeem Curtis, though; whatever he wants to call himself, 50 Cent will have to up his game significantly if he wants to retain his coveted position as one of the world's biggest-selling hip-hop artists. Kanye's already nipping at his heels.